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The African Repository and Colonial Journal (periodical)
Start Year : 1825
End Year : 1892
Published by the American Colonization Society, the journal was first known as The African Repository and Colonial Journal. In 1850 the title changed to The African Repository and in 1892 to Liberia. The journals contain reports, records, and activities of the American Colonization Society. Included in the issues are the names of slave owners, estates, and the freed slaves who were to be colonized in Liberia, Africa. An example of the listing can be found under the heading "African Colonization in Kentucky at the Google Book Search site.
Subjects: Freedom, Liberia, Liberian Presidents & Diplomats, Religion & Church Work, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Inheritance, Colonies, Colonization
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Liberia, Africa

Aunt Charlotte and King Solomon
Aunt Charlotte was a slave brought to Lexington, KY, in the late 1700s. She was freed and inherited property after her owners died. She supported herself by selling fruit and baked goods at the open market. She and William "King" Solomon had known each other in Virginia, and Aunt Charlotte's story is tied to his in the literature. Solomon was a white vagrant who supported his drinking with wages earned as a digger of cisterns, graves, and cellars. In the spring of 1833, as punishment for his vagrancy, local officials put Solomon up for sale as a slave for one year; at the end of that year he was to return to court. Aunt Charlotte purchased Solomon for $13; she outbid two medical students who were investing in a future cadaver. Aunt Charlotte set Solomon free, and he promptly managed to get liquor, later making his way back to Aunt Charlotte's home, where he passed out on a Thursday. He woke on a Saturday to find that many had died or were dying of cholera while others were evacuating the city. Aunt Charlotte was preparing to leave, but when Solomon refused to go, she would not leave him. People were dying quicker than they were being buried--the gravediggers had deserted the city. Solomon took up his shovel and began burying the dead. His dedication probably prevented further spread of the disease. Both Solomon and Aunt Charlotte survived the epidemic. When Solomon returned to court, the judge shook his hand and others thanked him for his heroic deeds. Solomon died in the poorhouse in 1854; he is buried in the Lexington Cemetery. In 1908 a large tombstone was placed at his grave. It is not known what became of Aunt Charlotte. For more see "King Solomon of Kentucky" in Flute and Violin and other Kentucky Tales, by J. L. Allen; and "King Solomon, Heroic Gravedigger" in Offbeat Kentuckians, by K. McQueen.
Subjects: Alcohol, Freedom, Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries, Inheritance
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Virginia

Autobiography of a Female Slave, by Mattie Griffith
Start Year : 1856
The Autobiography of a Female Slave was written by Owensboro, KY, native Mattie Griffith. The book was initially thought to be a Kentucky slave narrative, and even today it is still occasionally mistaken as such. Martha "Mattie" Griffith was a white abolitionist who wrote the book in hopes of raising money to emancipate her slaves and resettle them in a free state. A few weeks after the book was published, Griffith admitted writing the story based on real life incidents that she had witnessed. The Louisville Courier denounced the book as abolitionist propaganda. The book did not sell well, but Griffith received money from the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1858 that she used to free and resettle her slaves. Griffith and her sister, Catherine, had inherited their slaves from their deceased parents, Catherine and Thomas Griffith, who died in 1830. The girls were raised by family members in Louisville, KY, and around 1854 they were both living in Philadelphia, PA, where Mattie wrote her book. Beginning in 1859, she wrote a serialized anti-slavery novel with a mulatto heroine from Kentucky: "Madge Vertner," published in the National Anti-Slavery Standard newspaper, July 1859-May 1860. In 1866, Mattie Griffith married Albert Gallatin Browne from Massachusetts. She died in Boston in 1906. This entry was suggested by James Birchfield, Curator of Rare Books at the University of Kentucky Libraries. For more information see the Mattie Griffith Browne entry in the American National Biography Online database; Slippery Characters, by L. Browder; and J. M. Lucas, "Exposed Roots: from pseudo-slave narratives to The Wind Done Gone, the authenticity of representations of black history has always been in question," 02/27/2002, at Indyweek.com (Independent Weekly).
Subjects: Authors, Freedom, Migration North, Inheritance
Geographic Region: Owensboro, Daviess County, Kentucky / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania / Boston, Massachusetts

Berry, Isaac, Sr.
Birth Year : 1831
Death Year : 1914
Isaac Berry, Sr. was a violin player who was born a slave in Garrard County, KY. He was willed to one of his owner's daughters. The daughter married James Pratt, and the family moved to Missouri. With the permission of Mrs. Pratt, Berry ran away and James Pratt posted a $500 reward for Berry, dead or alive. Berry made his way to Ypsilanti, MI, [see George McCoy] by following the railroad tracks, the trip taking him three weeks. Members of the Underground Railroad helped Berry to make his way on to Detroit, then to Canada. Berry's daughter, Katy Pointer, was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in 1864, and the family moved to Mecosta, MI, in 1877. Isaac Berry, Sr. was a blacksmith and a carpenter, he was the husband of Lucy, who was born in New York; both are last listed in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. The Berry family was among the early settlers of Morton Township in Mecosta, MI, where Isaac Berry built a school for Negro children and other structures. Isaac Berry, Sr. was born March 10, 1831 and died January 11, 1914 [source: Michigan Certificate of Death at Seeking Michigan, online digital archive]. For more see Negro Folktales in Michigan, edited by R. M. Dorson; and A northside view of slavery. The Refugee: or the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada, by B. Drew (1856).
Subjects: Freedom, Migration North, Migration West, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Blacksmiths, Inheritance, Carpenters, Underground Railroad: Conductors, Escapes, Organizations, Research
Geographic Region: Garrard County, Kentucky / Missouri / Ypsilanti, Detroit, and Mecosta, Michigan / Canada

Caesar
Birth Year : 1758
Death Year : 1836
Caesar, born into slavery, was a carpenter. In 1733, he was inherited by James Robertson. Caesar accompanied Robertson on his journey to the Natchez District and on to Fort Nelson (Louisville, KY). When Robertson died, Caesar became the property of Philip Barbour, who then sold him to John Campbell. When Campbell died, his heir, William Beard, brought Caesar to Lexington, KY, where he lived for the remainder of his life. For more see The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber.
Subjects: Explorers, Inheritance, Carpenters
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Davis, Ellen
Birth Year : 1843
Death Year : 1927
Ellen Davis was the daughter of John Davis, an Irishman [John J. Cummins is listed as the father on her death certificate]. She was from Fayette County, KY, and had been a slave belonging to the mother of wealthy horseman John T. Hughes (1840-1924) of Fayette County. When Davis was about 18 years old, she had a son by Hughes, who never married. Their relationship was temporarily interrupted during the Civil War, but resumed in 1872, when Davis became free and after J. T. Hughes' mother had died. The relationship continued until 1924 when J. T. Hughes died. In his will, he left $30,000 to various persons, and his faithful colored man, Alex Rankin, received 96 1/2 acres of land [Alex Rankin d.1935, his wife Nannie d.1939, they are buried in African Cemetery No.2]. Ellen Davis received the mansion Elkton and hundreds of acres of farmland plus all of the home belongings, farm equipment, and stock. Their son, Robert Henry Hughes, who had spent most of his life in Buffalo, NY, received 160 acres. The remainder of the estate went to the Midway Orphan's Home. The will was contested and the case went to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, December 1925. The will was allowed to stand as written and Ellen Davis, in a situation very similar to that of Margaret Pryor, was thought to be the wealthiest Negro woman in Kentucky. But unlike Pryor, 80 year old Davis sold the estate that neighbored thoroughbred farms that belonged to wealthy men such as John E. Madden, Samuel D. Riddle, and Joseph E. Widener, who bought 587 acres. Payne Whitney, a relative of J. T. Hughes from New York, bought the Elkton mansion and 277 acres. Ellen Davis died at the age of 84 in Fayette County, KY, on December 8, 1927. According to her death certificate, she is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery. For more see "Bayless v. Hughes' EX'Rs et al. (Court of Appeals of Kentucky. Dec. 15, 1925)," South Western Reporter, vol. 278, pp. 162-163; "Made richest Negress in South by court," New York Times, 12/17/1925, p. 13; and "New property cost breeders $326,000," New York Times, 03/01/1926, p. 14. The Rankins' death dates and cemetery information provided by Yvonne Giles - "The Cemetery Lady".
Subjects: Freedom, Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, & The Derby, Migration North, Inheritance, Court Cases
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Hughes, Robert Henry
Birth Year : 1861
Death Year : 1935
Robert H. Hughes was a wealthy African American who lived in Lexington, KY. With his death, the Lincoln Institute was saved from harder financial times: when Hughes died he left the school $10,000. He also left $100,000 in a trust fund for scholarships, half for white persons and half for colored persons. Robert Henry Hughes was the son of Ellen Davis, a former slave, and the wealthy horseman, John T. Hughes, who was white. Robert H. Hughes spent much of his life in Buffalo, NY, returning to Lexington after the death of his father in 1924. He lived at 340 East Third Street, where present day Smith & Smith Funeral Home is located. He is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Lexington. Robert Henry Hughes' first name has often been mistakenly written as William or James. For more see Kentucky's Black Heritage, by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights; and information on the Henry Hughes Educational Fund in the Fouse Family Papers in the Kentucky Digital Library. Hughes' death date and additional information on the cemetery and funeral home provided by Yvonne Giles - "The Cemetery Lady."

 

Access Interview The orall history interview with Charles F. Call, Jr. provides more information on Robert Hughes. The recording is available at the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, item record in the SPOKE Database. 
 
Subjects: Education and Educators, Inheritance
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Johnson, Robert: Family and Relatives
Robert Johnson, one of the first Kentucky senators, was a white settler from Virginia. He came to Kentucky in 1783 and built Big Crossings Station, a fort near North Elkhorn Creek in Scott County. Johnson, one of the largest land owners in the state, owned slaves, some of whom were also his relatives. Today there are Johnson family members who are African American and those who are white. A biennial family reunion was held in Georgetown, KY, in July 2005. One of Robert Johnson's sons (by his wife Jemima) was Richard M. Johnson, a U. S. Representative and Senator and the ninth Vice President of the United States. Richard Johnson developed a relationship with Julia Chinn, described as a mulatto, whom he acquired from his father's estate. Julia and Richard had two daughters, Imogene and Adaline. Richard publicly acknowledged his relationship and his children and tried to introduce his daughters into white society, all of which cost him his Senate seat in 1836. For more see S. Lannen, "Unearthing their roots-sharing uncommon ancestors a diverse Kentucky family reunites," Lexington Herald-Leader, July 23, 2005; and Life and Times of Colonel Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, by L. W. Meyer.
Subjects: Early Settlers, Fathers, Mothers, Inheritance
Geographic Region: Georgetown, Scott County, Kentucky

Morris, Edward H.
Birth Year : 1858
Death Year : 1943
Born in Flemingsburg, KY, Edward H. Morris was the fifth African American lawyer admitted to the Illinois Bar. He was an attorney in charge of taxes for Cook County, Illinois, and a member of the Illinois Legislature. Morris introduced the School Teacher's Pension Bill, which became law. Also during his tenure, a law was passed legalizing slave marriages for the purpose of inheritance. Edward Morris was the son of Hezekiah (a slave) and Elizabeth Morris (free) and the brother of William R. Morris. After Hezekiah's death, the family moved first to Cincinnati, OH, then on to Chicago, IL. Edward Morris was a graduate of St. Patrick's College (Chicago) and was admitted to the Chicago Bar in 1879. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1927; Dictionary of American Negro Biography, ed. by R. W. Logan and M. R. Winston; and Personal: Edward H. Morris in The Journal of Negro History, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 258-259.

See photo image and additional information on Edward H. Morris at the Clarence Darrow Digital Collection, a University of Minnesota Law Library website.
Subjects: Lawyers, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Inheritance, Legislators (Outside Kentucky)
Geographic Region: Flemingsburg, Fleming County, Kentucky / Chicago, Cook County, Illinois

Mudd, Celia
Birth Year : 1859
Death Year : 1940
Born in Nelson County, KY, Celia Mudd was the aunt of Kentucky's first African American senator, Georgia D. Powers. Mudd's story is told in Powers' book, Celia's Land, which relates how Mudd, a former slave, came to be the recipient of the 840-acre farm of her former owners. It was after Sam Lancaster's death that Mudd learned that he had willed her the farm. Sam's brother contested the will and the case went to court. For more see Celia's Land, by G. D. Powers.
Subjects: Freedom, Inheritance, Court Cases
Geographic Region: Nelson County, Kentucky

Pryor, Margaret
Birth Year : 1835
Death Year : 1910
Margaret Pryor was the richest African American woman in Kentucky as a result of the fortune she inherited from her former owner, horse breeder Major Barak G. Thomas (1826-1906). Thomas, who also raced his horses, had left smaller inheritances to others, including $1,000 to his African American jockey and trainer, John T. Clay, and another $1,000 to Clay's sons, Johnnie and Barak. The will was protested by Thomas's family and friends but was allowed to stand as written. Maj. B. G. Thomas had been born in South Carolina; in 1912 his family moved to Lexington, KY. After making his wealth in the horse industry, and with the onset of failing health, Thomas had sold his stud farm and settled in his city home at 194 West Main Street, where he passed away in 1906. His home was next door to the Henry A. Tandy family home. After Maj. Thomas's death, Margaret Pryor remained in the home and welcomed visitors from throughout the U.S. When she died in 1910, she was buried in Greenwood Cemetery [now Cove Haven Cemetery] in Lexington, though Maj. Thomas had stipulated in his will that she be buried beside him in the then segregated Lexington Cemetery. Margaret Pryor's will was challenged in the Fayette Circuit Court by her heirs, Mary Walker and others. The will was allowed to stand as written. The wills of both Maj. Thomas and Margaret Pryor were reported in all of the major newspapers and many smaller papers in the United States. In 1911, the Atlanta Constitution newspaper reported that Pryor had no children and four women who lived in Macon and Eatonton, GA, were claiming to be Pryor's sisters and were seeking to claim $50,000 that the sisters said was left to them by Pryor. All of the sisters were supposedly once owned by Skelton Napier of Macon, GA. For more see "Major Barak G. Thomas is dead," The Thoroughbred Record, 05/19/1906; "Will of Major Thomas," The Thoroughbred Record, 05/26/1906; "Death of rich ex-slave," Washington Post, 05/13/1910, p. 11; "Margaret Pryor's will," Lexington Herald-Leader, 05/14/1910, p. 6; and "Negroes claim estate of wealthy sister," Atlanta Constitution, 01/24/1911, p. 5.

*Maj. Barak G. Thomas's home at 194 West Main Street had been renumbered to 646 West Main Street by 1907. The property faces the corner of present day Main Street and Old Georgetown Street.
Subjects: Freedom, Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, & The Derby, Migration North, Inheritance, Court Cases
Geographic Region: South Carolina / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Macon and Eatonton, Georgia

Slave Deaths due to Cholera, 1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule
Start Year : 1850
The federal mortality schedules, for which data were first collected in 1849, included the cholera deaths of slaves, many listed by name. Prior to 1870, it had been the free African Americans who were listed in the U.S. Federal Census by name, while slaves were listed in the Slave Schedules by sex and age under the names of their owners. The mortality schedules were published 1850-1880, and the number of overall deaths in the U.S. were under reported in the data collection. There were hundreds of deaths in Kentucky due to cholera before, after, and during the year 1850. Cholera is an infection of the small intestine caused by the consumption of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae (more info at MedlinePlus). In 1850, as the U.S. was striving for better public health measures, doctors were still searching for the exact cause of the disease, how it was transferred and how it could be treated and prevented. A nationwide cholera epidemic had taken place in 1848-49. Former U.S. President James K. Polk died of cholera in 1849 after a visit to Louisiana. His presidency was followed by that of 12th U.S. President Zachary Taylor, who died of cholera in 1850. [He was born in Virginia and grew up in Kentucky.] Mary A. Fillmore, daughter of the 13th U.S. President, Millard Fillmore, died of cholera in 1854. Lucy Ware Webb Hayes (whitehouse.gov), the wife of 19th U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, lost her father to cholera in 1833 when he came to his hometown, Lexington, KY, to free the slaves that he had recently inherited. In addition to Dr. James Webb, his mother, father, and brother also died of cholera. After the 1830s cholera epidemic, there were publications written for southerns on the medical treatment of cholera in slaves. With the second epidemic in the late 1840s, there was a request for a publication on what was considered an effective treatment by Dr. C. B. New. In 1850 he published Cholera: observations on the management of cholera on plantations, and method of treating the disease [available online]. Included in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule are 71 black slaves in Kentucky who died of cholera, most from Scott, Warren, and Woodford Counties; the schedule also lists the death of seven Kelly slaves in Warren County, in June 1850. There were also 16 mulatto slave deaths in Scott, Shelby, Spencer, Union and Warren Counties. S. M. Young, a free mulatto woman from Scott County, also died of cholera in 1850. For more see The Health of Slaves on Southern Plantations, by W. D. Postell; Observations on the epidemic now prevailing in the City of New-York, by C. C. Yates [available full-text at Google Book Search]; Cholera; its pathology, diagnosis, and treatment, by William Story [available full-text at Google Book Search]; T. L. Savitt's Medicine and Slavery; and Finding Answers in U.S. Census Records, by L. D. Szucs and M. Wright. See also the list of Cholera deaths in Lexington, KY, [Whites and Blacks] for the year 1833, a rootsweb site, and for the year 1849.
Subjects: Medical Field, Health Care, Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries, Inheritance
Geographic Region: Kentucky

Tevis, Elizabeth C. H.
Birth Year : 1802
Death Year : 1880
Tevis was born a slave in Jefferson County, KY. She was freed from slavery in 1833 and inherited land. She married but had a prenuptial agreement to protect the ownership of her property. Tevis was one of the few African Americans to own slaves in Jefferson County; she hired out children acquired from the slave market. Tevis was the first resident in the community known as Petersburg in Jefferson County. For more see The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber.
Subjects: Businesses, Freedom, Inheritance, Free African American Slave Owners
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

York
York, a slave whom William Clark inherited from his father, was the first African American to cross North America. York came to Jefferson County, KY, with Clark to live on the family plantation, Mulberry Hill. In 1803 York accompanied Clark on the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803-1806); he was known as Big Medicine to the Indians. A while after the expedition, York was freed; the date and place of his death is not known. For more see In Search of York by R. Betts; The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber; and Buffalo Dance, the journey of York, by F. X. Walker.
Subjects: Explorers, Inheritance
Geographic Region: Jefferson County, Kentucky

 

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